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An experiment is beginning in Rwanda to test whether farming communities are more likely to adapt their agricultural practices to cope with climate change if the government provides timely weather forecasts.

The African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) is using the Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) framework to show whether providing this information, which is based on climate research, will curb crop and livestock losses by encouraging agricultural adaptations that are more resilient to weather extremes.

The centre, a joint project of the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank, works with governments to improve the collection of climate data and scientists’ capacity to manage it. Now the ACPC wants to show whether the improvements make a difference in peoples’ lives.

“We talk about agriculture being affected by climate change, but what can climate information do for agriculture as a sector?”

Fatima Denton, ACPC

“It’s a good opportunity to contribute to the research of whether we invest our dollars in climate services,” Florent Gasc, an ACPC geographic information officer, told SciDev.Net at the fourth conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa, last month (8-10 October) in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The Rwanda trial started in late October and results are expected in the first quarter of 2015.

TAMD is one of several evaluation systems designed to assess whether techniques to manage climate risk — such as climate research and schemes that provide information about drought-resistant crops or flood controls — truly helps communities adapt to climate change.

The framework was developed by UK policy research organisation the International Institute for Environment and Development.   

TAMD has two monitoring streams. One tracks climate risk management, while the other records how such management affects development outcomes.

The framework is designed to encourage continuous monitoring and evaluation so that the results of climate services can be evaluated, modified and re-evaluated. Ultimately, researchers can assess the cost and benefits; information which they might use as evidence to persuade governments to spend more on effective tools for helping farmers adjust to climate change.

The ACPC also hopes that the evidence it gathers using the framework in Rwanda will help African negotiators lobby African governments and international climate change negotiators to increase climate research funding, said Fatima Denton, the organisation’s coordinator.

“The importance of climate information and how that can transform agriculture has not been sufficiently related to the African [climate] negotiators,” she said during a special meeting after the Marrakesh conference.

“We talk about agriculture being affected by climate change, but what can climate information do for agriculture as a sector?”

Abdalah Mokssit, director of Morocco’s meteorological service, told SciDev.Net that weather forecasting services have so far been unable to prove they directly raise yields or reduce farmers’ vulnerability to changing conditions as it can be hard to isolate and evaluate their impact from those of other interventions.

But the TAMD framework aims to isolate the forecast’s impacts. Its inputs include structured interviews with farmers about why they made particular adaptations and how vulnerable they feel to climate change.
Link to IIED briefing on TAMD

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net's Global Edition.